The high-end Gloria restaurant dates to 1937 and was voted one of the world's 100 most interesting restaurants in 2000, being built inside the walls of the fortress of Tallinn. Its wine list runs to 2,000 choices, making it the biggest wine cellar in the Nordic countries.
Tallinn – Fact Check

Tallinn is a gem for foodies

Photo by Christian Goupi

Tallinn – Fact Check Tallinn is a gem for foodies

In the old center of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, I have arranged to meet Alvar Hanson, a culinary enthusiast who organizes an annual competition entitled Flavours of Estonia that every year selects the country’s 50 best restaurants.

Dan Hayes
Dan Hayes Travel Writer

“Estonia is such a tiny country, we don’t really have our own special ingredients,” he says. “But Estonian cuisine is still extraordinary because it can trace its roots back to medieval times, when Tallinn used to be on the Hansa’s trade routes. In more recent years the country’s cuisine has been influenced by Germany, Russia and Scandinavia. It is a unique combination and it means we have a lot of familiar dishes that taste different.

“Tallinn has become something of a foodie capital in recent years. There is lots of variety: Tchaikovsky is an excellent Russian-French restaurant, Neh and Leib take a modern view on Estonian cuisine and we even have a modern Chinese restaurant (Chedi, established in cooperation with Wagamama founder Alan Yau). The city is a true hidden gem for food lovers,” says Hanson. “And it’s not only the capital that will impress. In recent years some good restaurants have been moving out of the cities to be closer to their ingredients.”

For all the variety available, though, there is a simple classic that has a special place in the culinary traditions of the country. “One dish that every Estonian misses if they are away from home for a long time is spiced Baltic sprats on rye bread,” says Hanson.

“It’s just a simple sandwich, but it is emblematic of Estonia. The sprats are flavored with a minimum of ten different spices, a reminder of Tallinn’s place in the medieval spice trade, and the butter must be farm- or homemade. Ideally, the dark bread and the spiced sprats should also be homemade too if you want the best flavor, although tinned spiced Baltic sprats are widely available in the shops. For Estonians, this dish is really special.”

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